In January of 2011, Google’s Matt Cutts published a blog post on the Official Google Blog, titled Google search and search engine spam, which told us:
One misconception that we’ve seen in the last few weeks is the idea that Google doesn’t take as strong action on spammy content in our index if those sites are serving Google ads. To be crystal clear:
- Google absolutely takes action on sites that violate our quality guidelines regardless of whether they have ads powered by Google;
- Displaying Google ads does not help a site’s rankings in Google; and
- Buying Google ads does not increase a site’s rankings in Google’s search results.
These principles have always applied, but it’s important to affirm they still hold.
What if Google at some point in the past looked at advertising data to help in the rankings of pages? This is something that I didn’t expect to be asking at any point in time after seeing a lot of statements like the one above.
A patent was granted at the USPTO today that points to a different story.
As Matt Cutts noted in the not too distant past, just because Google has a patent on something doesn’t mean that they are currently using it. A patent was granted to Google today that seems to contradict that statement about site rankings and Google ads.
What if Google used information about the terms that a site was advertising on in search results to learn more about the site and what terms were important for it?
What if Google looked at the ads displayed on a site to better determine what it was about for purposes of search rankings?
Those are the topics covered in this patent which was originally filed in 2003:
Methods and systems for improving search rankings using advertising data
Invented by Monika Henzinger and Alexander Mark Franz
US Patent 8,676,790
Granted March 18, 2014
Filed: December 5, 2003
Systems and methods for improving search rankings using advertising data are disclosed.
In one embodiment, a search engine implements a method comprising receiving a search query, identifying a plurality of articles relevant the search query, determining advertising data associated with the search query, and ranking the articles based at least in part on the advertising data.
Inventor Monika Henzinger was the founder of the Research Department at Google and Director of that Department for many years. She also worked on a wide variety of topics related to search while at Google.
Alex Franz joined her in authoring a number of papers for Google and in patents as well. These are a couple of people who were involved in some pretty impactful developments at Google. Having their names as the inventors of this patent shows a level of seriousness about it.
The patent shows at the very least that the idea of using advertising information for particular queries and particular pages was something that Google thought seriously about, and dedicated the time of a couple of their top-notch researchers towards, even if displaying ads at Google or buying Google ads never helped a site’s rankings at Google.
The patent does provide a picture of a full examination of how such advertising information could be used in the rankings of pages. Again, it’s not proof that Google has ever done that, but t does show us that the implications of such an action were considered.
That advertising information could have helped the Google of 2003 understand the content of pages better.
And yet I find myself happy thinking that it was never used in that manner.